BY MOLLY MCGUIRE
Daily Arts Writer
Published December 1, 2008
“Pride and Prejudice”
Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 5 and 6, 8 p.m.
Dec. 7, 2 p.m.
Power Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets from $18 reserved seating, $9 with student ID
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Anyone who has read “Pride and Prejudice” knows Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, the timeless couple of Jane Austen’s most popular novel. The sharp and independent Elizabeth is arguably one of English literature’s greatest heroines, and Mr. Darcy has likely given women all over the world unrealistic expectations about love. They’ll be on stage at the Power Center this weekend, but the 19th-century couple might not be entirely recognizable in their new setting: 1968.
Presented by the U-M Department of Theatre and Drama, “Pride and Prejudice” is a stage adaptation of Austen’s novel written by James Maxwell and revised by Alan Stanford. Director Timothy Douglas and his artistic team have made the choice to transpose the classic Regency romance to the psychedelic ’60s. A combination of choreography, costumes and music aids this transformation, but traditional Austenites will not be disappointed.
“The suggestion led into the choreography and into certain stylistic things in our adaptation, but really, the story, the words, the actual text and the acting is entirely authentic to the original,” said Kaylin Tavolacci, School of Music, Theater and Dance senior who plays Elizabeth Bennet, in a phone interview.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” begins the famous first line, “that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The plot of “Pride and Prejudice” highlights the Bennet sisters of marrying age and the shenanigans surrounding their various suitors. Full of gender and class-sensitive banter between intellectual equals in an assortment of quaint settings, the story’s discussion of social rank, wealth and romance is one not necessarily limited to the 1800s.
“There’s this cultural pressure that the actors can understand. These young people are living in the country and there’s this pressure from London and the swinging ’60s and everything that hasn’t quite infiltrated this country area,” Assistant Director Laura Bennett said. “For the actors, instead of just doing a period piece, it added an immediacy to their acting.”
The production stays away from swinging ’60s clichés, flower power and hippies, and instead uses the new setting to make the play even more relevant. Costume designer Jessica Hahn came up with the new time period after discovering that early-1800s fashions re-emerged in 1968. Liberated from the restrictions of period dress and impeccable dialects, the actors and artistic team are free to focus on storytelling. The characters shed their English accents and frilly dresses and present the story, without filter, to the audience.
“It’s a lot more relaxed," Tavolacci said. "I think the people in the audience will not feel like they’re in this reduced piece of literature, and it’s more relatable this way."
Of course, the plot is condensed (Tavolacci joked that if it were unabridged, “Pride and Prejudice” might last three weeks), but the adaptation preserves the quick and witty dialogue of the original novel. The love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth is still there, as is Austen’s shrewd examination of societal issues.
"The writer compressed many scenes into just a couple of scenes in the play, so it moves at a much faster pace at times than the book does, perhaps," Bennett said. "But it was very easy to translate the spirit and feeling of the book into the play."